Coach plans to apologize to players

Updated: November 15, 2004, 8:43 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Though Jeff Tedford usually ignores the rumors of his imminent departure from California, the coach couldn't block out the shouts from the cheap seats at Husky Stadium last weekend.

"Some of the Washington fans were telling the team some things that they shouldn't have to deal with," Tedford said. "Fans were saying they were going to steal (Cal's) coach. That shouldn't happen. It's not about me, it's about the team."

Though it was hardly his fault, Tedford plans to apologize to his players for the distraction during their blowout win over the hapless Huskies.

His message to the fourth-ranked Golden Bears (8-1, 6-1 Pac-10) will be the same one he's always stated publicly about his future: He's happy at Cal, and he can't think of much that Washington or Florida or an NFL team could offer to change his mind.

"There's really not much to say that they don't already know, that I haven't told them before," Tedford said Monday after the kickoff luncheon for Saturday's 107th Big Game against Stanford. "I love it at Cal. We're doing great things here."

While transforming the Bears from a doormat to a national championship contender in just three years, Tedford has been linked to nearly every major-college job opening and several NFL posts, mostly by overly optimistic boosters and media.

Though Tedford takes calls from suitors, there's a growing consensus among fans and boosters in the Bay Area that their coach will stick around to build on what he's started -- probably with a lucrative contract re-negotiation, which could be worked out before Cal's trip to a bowl game.

Just don't try to draw specifics from Tedford, who understandably keeps many of his thoughts as private as his complicated game plans.

"I'm very uncomfortable talking about this," Tedford said. "I don't even think anything about that. I'm very encouraged about the progress and where we're headed as an athletic program. I trust fully that we're making the progress it takes to move the program forward, and the progress we need to stay competitive in recruiting."

Though new athletic director Sandy Barbour hasn't yet traded contract numbers with Tedford's agent, she's working feverishly to upgrade Cal's dilapidated football facilities. Tedford's winning team will make it infinitely easier to raise those funds, including a large amount that's already been donated even before the school announces concrete plans for Memorial Stadium.

Though Barbour and chancellor Robert Birgeneau are new on their jobs, they understand the tremendous asset they've been handed in Tedford.

"The important thing is how Jeff feels about the progress that we're making, and I'll make sure he's informed about everything we do," said Barbour, who was hired just two months ago.

Barbour doesn't anticipate an announcement on Cal's stadium plans by Dec. 1 -- the date of a deadline triggering a buyout clause in Tedford's contract if progress isn't made on a new stadium. But neither Barbour nor Tedford puts much stock in that date, calling it just a guideline.

Though Tedford has given Cal fans almost no reason to doubt his truthfulness, any prospective employer who sees the Bears' discipline, skill and flair can't help being intrigued by the coach in charge of it all. Cal has its highest rank since 1952 -- and if the Bears and top-ranked Southern California both win the schools' final two games, Cal seems headed for the Rose Bowl for the first time in 46 years.

Tedford's fan club isn't confined to the college ranks, either. The Chicago Bears were keenly interested in him for their vacant head coaching position last season.

But Tedford seems content to confine his pro experience to his days in the CFL for now.

"It's not something that really interests me," he said of the NFL rumors. "I'm very happy to be at Cal. I feel more comfortable with the college game, being around the kids and recruiting, that kind of thing."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press